James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:44 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
Q Hi, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Good after- — good morning. Good afternoon, good morning.
Okay, a couple of items for you all at the top. Yesterday, the President laid out a once-in-a-century capital investment in America that will meet our current infrastructure needs; invest in manufacturing, research and development, and the care economy; rebuild our economy; and create good-paying jobs for American workers.
Since then, we’ve seen praise for the President’s vision from across the political spectrum — from business to labor, to economists and climate leaders — in addition to support from bipartisan majorities of the American people.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, quote, “We need a big and bold program to modernize our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, and we applaud the Biden administration for making infrastructure a top priority.”
The CEO of Ford Motors said that, quote, “Ford supports the administration’s efforts to advance a broad infrastructure plan that” provide — “prioritizes a more sustainable, connected, and autonomous future.”
The President of the League of Conservation Voters said, quote, “Today is a great day for jobs, justice, and climate action.”
And the International President of the SEIU called the Jobs Plan, quote, “a game-changer for tackling racial,
and economic inequality.”
And early polling underscores the overwhelming bipartisan support for components of this plan. Just yesterday, a Morning Consult poll showed that by a 2-to-1 margin, registered voters backed a hypothetical $3 trillion infrastructure package.
And a Data for Progress poll showed that by a 35-point margin, voters wanted to pay for this plan by asking the wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share, just like the President is calling for.
Two other items for all of you. Today, the Biden-Harris administration is launching a nationwide grassroots network of local voices and trusted community leaders to encourage people to get vaccinated. We’ve talked in here quite a bit about how effective and impactful we’ve seen having community voices, trusted voices be the voi- — the people who are getting the information out to communities. So this is a reflection of that.
Some of the 250 founding members include NASCAR, the American Medical Association, NAACP, UNIDOS, the Chamber of Commerce, and Catholic Charities. Collectively, the group of founding members has the ability to reach millions of people and deliver critical public health information.
This morning, the Vice President and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy spoke with some of the Community Corps founding members about the unique efforts that communities across the country are taking to get more shots in arms, including by hosting virtual town halls, giving workers paid time off, and conducting direct outreach to people within their community. And a lot more work, of course, to come from there.
Sorry, two more short items. President Biden, as a part of the American Rescue Plan — we have another development to convey — he promised, of course, to get healthcare costs down for families. And through a number of steps he’s taking, and beginning today, Americans can go to HealthCare.gov to take advantage of reduced premiums, increased savings, and quality, affordable coverage.
Americans currently enrolled in marketplace coverage will see their premiums decrease on average by $50 per person per month and $85 per policy per month. So that certainly is a positive development.
Last thing. Finally, as part of our commitment to transparency, I wanted to let you know that the President was tested for COVID-19 this week. COVID-19 was not detected. He is tested every two weeks as a part of regular screening.
Darlene, why don’t you kick it off?
Q Thank you, Jen. A couple of questions on the infrastructure bill. Can you give us a sense, now that the President has announced the details, what comes next from the White House in terms of travel — by the President or the Vice President or any other members in the Cabinet — in terms of selling the plan? And will we see something similar to “Help is Here” for the COVID bill?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you can certainly expect that the President, the Vice President will be involved in making calls; doing outreach; communicating with members of Congress, with governors, with elected officials, and, of course, with the American people.
I will say, the piece that’s slightly different, or in addition to, is what the President announced at the Cabinet meeting, which is that he has asked some key members of his Cabinet to serve in a “Jobs Cabinet,” to be front-and-center voices in engaging with members of Congress, with leadership in Congress, with governors, with elected officials, with the American public through media and through other direct communications, also traveling around the country to communicate about this plan that he’s proposed. So that’s another piece of it that you will see grow over the coming weeks.
Q And former President Donald Trump says that the tax increases that are in — the corporate tax increases that are in the plan will shift more companies and jobs overseas and that China will be the big winner there. It also depends on getting countries to stop a race to the bottom on corporate taxes. And we’re just wondering, how do you get those other countries to go along with that idea of, you know, not racing to the bottom on corporate taxes?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have a little chart — maybe we can pull up on the screen here. Hopefully. We’ll queue it to come up, just to show.
Q The one that was up before?
MS. PSAKI: Was it up before? Well, we’ll bring it up again because it’s a relevant one for people to take a look at that just shows the journey of corporate tax rates over the course of the last several decades.
The fact is, the corporate tax rate at 21 percent is lower than it has ever been in the past. What we’re talking about is raising it to 28 percent, which is lower than it’s been in the past several decades for most of that period of time. And it goes back to a rate — that was the case during part of the Bush administration.
See, as you can see here. Now, during the ‘60s, it was up over 50 percent. Obviously, that’s incredibly high. And it’s gone down progressively. And it was in the mid ‘30s, as you can see, through about, you know, 2015 or right before then. And then it went dramatically down.
What we’re talking about is just raising it to a rate that is lower than it has been through the majority — the vast majority of time over the last 70 years. And we think that’s an incredibly reasonable proposal.
I will say that in the wake of the 2017 tax bill — tax giveaway to corporate America, I should say, 91 of the Fortune 500 companies paid no federal taxes. No — zero — zero federal taxes. That is not something that the American people believe is fair, that we believe is fair.
And what we’re talking about here is making adjustments to the tax code to make it more fair to invest in our infrastructure, invest in American workers, so that we can be more competitive over the long term.
Q And then lastly, today in Kentucky — earlier today in Kentucky, Senator McConnell was talking and said that the package, quote, “is not going to get support from our side.” He opposes the undoing of the 2017 tax cuts, and said that, quote, “I’m going to fight them every step of the way.” So, how do you respond?
MS. PSAKI: I think there’s some more questions to be asked. Does he disagree that our nation’s infrastructure is outdated and needs repair? Does he disagree that we need to do more to put American workers back to work and to invest in industries that have growth potential over the long term? Does he disagree that one third of the country who doesn’t have broadband access should have access to broadband? There are a lot of areas where there is agreement with — across the political spectrum, from investment and infrastructure, doing more to be competitive with China.
And what we’re really talking about here is how to pay for it. And so what we’re looking for is proposals of alternatives. If you don’t want to raise the corporate tax rate — still lower than it’s been over the last 70 years and umph, you know, across decades — if you don’t want to do that, if you don’t want to put in place a global minimum tax, what are the alternatives? We’re happy to hear those proposals.
Q Thanks, Jen. Yesterday, when President Biden spoke about corporate taxes, he specifically named Amazon out of the, kind of, the Fortune 500 companies that have paid zero federal taxes. Why did he just name Amazon?
MS. PSAKI: It’s just an example. As I noted, there were actually 91 companies who didn’t pay any corporate taxes in 2018. So there are many to pick from.
Q And about the Baltimore plant, we understand that there’s a contamination of about 15 million doses. When did this happen? And when did the administration find out?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the issue was identified as part of rigorous quality control system checks. And HHS made us aware late last week.
Q Late last week. And so, we understand that this supply is headed to Europe and not for the United States, but how does that really overall, sort of, change J&J’s supply plans? And were they planning to use this plant to deliver the 24 million doses they had planned to deliver by the end of April to the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the issue doesn’t impact, one, any of the J&J doses that are available; of course, they’re already in the market. Johnson & Johnson has made clear that they expect to deliver 24 million doses in April and that they expect to meet their commitment of 100 million doses by the end of May. So we are looking forward to that.
Obviously, these are doses that the U.S. government has purchased, but we also have plenty of doses from Pfizer and Moderna regardless.
Q So there is no supply disruption caused by the Baltimore plant for U.S. supply?
MS. PSAKI: For U.S. supply — for the supply that we are anticipating through the course of May, we have been assured that we — that they expect to meet those deadlines.
Q Okay. And one more about Hong Kong. As you’re aware, there were seven pro-democracy veterans who were advocates — pro-democracy advocates who were arrested yesterday. And this is, obviously, you know, a continuation of Beijing trying to quash pro-democracy protests in the country. Do you have a comment? Is the administration monitoring that situation even now?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly are. Today’s politically motivated convictions in Hong Kong of seven pro-democracy activists once again shows the degree to which Beijing seeks to crush all forms of peaceful dissent in the city.
These activists were taking part in a peaceful demonstration of over 1.7 million Hong Kongers protesting for the autonomy and freedom — freedoms promised to them by the PRC. Their conviction is yet another example of Beijing eroding Hong Kong’s freedoms and failing to live up to its international obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Go ahead, Kelly.
Q Did the company — did the — once the company informed the administration about the timing of the problems at the plant — there’s so much focus from this White House about transparency. Was there an obligation to speak about this earlier than acknowledging today that you knew last week?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important for people to remember that this plant has not been FDA approved. It’s still going through a rigorous review. And J&J is, of course, working through that process to bring the facility online and gain authorization. So HHS updated us — in fact, this is probably the process working as it should. HHS updated us on J&J’s manufacturing, including where things stood with the facility, at the point where they learned about the issue. It wasn’t going to impact our supply. It wasn’t going to impact the supply to the American people. And, of course, J&J is working through this with the FDA, so we’d certainly refer to them on the process.
Q On the infrastructure climate jobs plan: The President also talked about inviting Republicans to the Oval Office.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Given the comments from his longtime friend, Mitch McConnell, do we have that on the books yet? And do you anticipate that there is any legitimate room to move? Or is the White House really settling into the idea that this will be a Democrats-only push in order to accomplish this big priority?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we just announced the proposal yesterday. There’s a long history of agreement on infrastructure and the need to invest in infrastructure — the need to take steps to be more competitive with China. We feel there are a lot of areas of agreement.
And the President will certainly be inviting Republicans and Democrats here to the Oval Office to have discussions and meetings about the path forward to hear their ideas.
There are some differences between the ARP. The ARP — the American Rescue Plan — was an emergency package. We needed to get it done as quickly as possible to get the pandemic under control, get relief, direct checks out to Americans. We’ve got a little bit more time here to work and have discussions with members of both parties.
We want to see progress by Memorial Day. We’d like to see this package passed by the summer, but I certainly expect, when Congress returns, that the President will be inviting members to the Oval Office.
Q And when you consider that timeline, certainly there are Democrats, and especially the most progressive Democrats, who would like to see the ability to get this done quickly in order to touch on some of the other priorities that are in different topic areas.
Is there a real sense, though, that you can work with Republicans when the Leader says, “There will be no support”; when the House Republican Leader, Kevin McCarthy, says, “We love infrastructure, but we don’t like this tax idea”? Is there any room left?
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s a question for them. They support investment in infrastructure. Right? They believe we need to do more to compete with China. Maybe they don’t believe we should pay for it. If so, they should say that. Maybe they have different alternative ideas.
There have been some proposals out there about user fees or gas taxes, essentially. We don’t agree with that. We don’t believe that the cost should be on the backs of the American people. We believe that corporations should be able to bear the brunt for investing in America’s workers. But they can come forward with their ideas.
We believe we can start from a place where we agris- — agree.
Q And given that the COVID economy has been hard on so many businesses, is this the time to try to increase taxes when they are not really out of the COVID slide of the economic impact of the pandemic?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what we’re talking about here — that’s exactly why we shouldn’t be increasing taxes on the American people, on people making less than $400,000 a year; why we shouldn’t be putting in place user fees — because people are still trying to get through this period of time.
Corporations who have had their tax rate lowered to 21 percent — lower by a great margin than it’s been ever in history; corporations that didn’t pay any taxes in 2018, we think they can afford to help rebuild our workforce, help invest in industries of the future, and make sure our infrastructure makes us competitive with China.
Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thank you, Jen. You just repeated what the President was talking about yesterday. You want corporations to bear the brunt of the $2.25 trillion over eight years. But there are these calculations now that the corporate tax hike is not going to raise that much until 2036. So I’m curious where the rest of the money comes from.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as was outlined in detail on our plan, we’re talking about paying for an eight-year investment over the course of 15 years. And that, given that the investments are short-term investments — investments that are temporary — we actually would more than make up for the cost of these investments over time.
Q And one of the most colorful examples that the President used yesterday — he asked if people remembered a bridge going down. But only 5 percent of the spending in this package goes towards roads and bridges, and I’m curious why that number is so low in something that is being sold as an infrastructure package.
MS. PSAKI: We’re actually selling it as a once-in-a-century or once-in-a-generation investment in partly our infrastructure, but partly industries of the future, American workers in the workforce.
And there are areas like broadband, which maybe is not a physical bridge, but one third of the country doesn’t have access to broadband. So that impacts workers — workers who have been working from home; kids who are trying to learn at home; parts of the country where they can’t have jobs where they’re working remotely.
We feel that that is an area where we can improve, expand access, and as a result, be more competitive with the country — with other countries, I should say.
Q And then, on immigration, has the White House considered beefing up border security now that there is video of a three-year-old and a five-year-old being thrown over the wall in New Mexico?
MS. PSAKI: Beefing up border security?
Q Well, there are — there’s video now of a three-year-old and a five-year-old —
MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen the video, and I think any of us who saw the video were incredibly alarmed by the steps of smugglers — ones that we have been quite familiar with, that we’ve spoken out about our concerns about.
As Secretary Mayorkas said, “The inhumane way smugglers abuse children while profiting off parents’ desperation is criminal and morally reprehensible.” The President certainly agrees with that. And these kids, I believe, were rescued from — by individuals who are working at the border.
Q Yes, but they still got close enough — as you guys are talking about addressing root causes in the region — for a smuggler to throw them over a wall into the desert. And I’m just curious what the White House is doing to stop that from
MS. PSAKI: And are you concerned more about the kids safety or are you concerned about kids getting in? Or tell me more about your concern here.
Q Kids’ safety is, as you just mentioned, the main concern.
MS. PSAKI: Well, of course it is, which is why I’m often surprised by some of the line of questioning here. But I will say that our concern and our focus is on sending a clear message to smuggler — to the region that this is not the time to come. You should not send your kids on this treacherous journey. That these smugglers are preying on vulnerabilities in these communities. There’s a lot of issues and steps we need to take to address root causes.
So, of course, our concern is for the safety of these kids. These Border Patrol agents who save these kids deserve our thanks and our gratitude for ensuring their safety.
Q Thank you. It’s not just Leader McConnell, of course, and Republicans who are taking issue with some of this plan. We’ve seen some Democrats also voicing some concerns. So what is the President’s message to these progressive members who say this plan doesn’t go far enough?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we would say this is a two-part proposal. One, it’s an enormous investment in our infrastructure — in our roads, our railways, our bridges, our broadband, our waterways; in ensuring people have access to clean water. It accounts for — I think the number is about 1 percent of our GDP, so it certainly is a significant attempt to address that. It’s also a two-part proposal.
And the President will be speaking more in the coming weeks about how we can do more to help our caregivers, to help our — well, some of that was in this package — but help address the needs of childcare, help lower the cost of healthcare, and help do more to ensure we’re easing the burden on families across the country.
Q Is the President confident that he can get Democrats united behind his plan?
MS. PSAKI: I think the President believes that Democrats, that independents, that Republicans — as we’ve seen in polls across the country — believe that we should do more to invest in our infrastructure.
And infrastructure means ensuring there’s access to broadband. Infrastructure means ensuring that we rebuild our roads, our railways, and bridges. That’s something that Democrats, Republicans, independents have talked about — the fact that it’s long overdue for some time now.
Q And why are you splitting this into two parts? Is that a sign at all that you think the infrastructure portion — this first part is something that you have a greater chance of getting passed?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t overread into it in that way. We don’t know what the legislative functioning or process will look like at this point. We’re actually quite open to congressional committees moving forward on certain components. We’re very open to members of Congress coming back with different ideas about how we can achieve the objectives outlined. It’s an opportunity to lay out, in a speech, what our objective is, which is to compete with China; invest in infrastructure; and, separately, lay out in a couple of weeks what we need to do better as a country and as a government to help families, address the needs of childcare. And — and that’s why he’s splitting it up.
Q And you’ve made clear — you’ve reiterated here, the President has also said, you know, you’re open to alternatives — alternative suggestions for how to pay for this. But just to be clear, is the overall price tag here open for negotiation or just how to pay for this?
MS. PSAKI: Look, the President proposed, based on the advice of economists and economic experts, how he feels we can achieve these objectives. We’ll see what others come forward with in terms of different proposals or different ways to rebuild our infrastructure and ensure we’re competing with China and better positioning ourselves in the world.
Q And just one last question on the impact of this: The President said, yesterday, that along with the stimulus bill, an estimated 18 million jobs could be created with this plan. We’ve seen a recent S&P forecast estimate that more than 2 million jobs would be created. What’s the range that the White House thinks in terms of how many millions of jobs will actually be created by this plan?
MS. PSAKI: We expect there’ll be a number of outside economists who will — and economic forecasters — who will do projections in the coming days. We’ll see what those look like. We expect them to be right in the ballpark of what the President said yesterday.
Q But why not put out your own suggestions here? I mean, you’re asking for $2 trillion. Why not put out an estimate of how many jobs will be created?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly expect there’ll be a range of numbers that you all can refer to that are done by outside analysts and that — that’s a really effective way to give a sense to the American people of what can be expected from this package.
Q Thanks Jen. Since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that Republicans aren’t going to play ball — she kind of took my question a little bit. But if Republicans came back with, kind of, a skinny infrastructure package — maybe brought back something that didn’t include the $400 billion it gets for in-home health for people — disabled people — so, maybe, include it in the second package that you’re working on, would the White House be open to that — to looking at a different package?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to negotiate from here, obviously. We’re certainly open, always, to hearing from — hearing ideas and proposals from Democrats and Republicans. We certainly put in the caregiving component of the package — the President did — because he believes that there is a huge impact on our workforce of the — caregiving has a huge impact on our workforce — the cost, the time, the energy, the effort — and it is something that is keeping people from — out of the workforce, keep — preventing them from progressing in their jobs. So that’s why he included it in there.
If Republicans disagree and don’t think that that’s an issue in our society, then they should come forward and certainly convey that.
Q And does President Biden support ending the Trump-era limit on state and local tax deductions, otherwise known as “SALT.” One Democrat saying, “No SALT, no deal on infrastructure.” Where does the President stand on that?
MS. PSAKI: If Democrats want to propose a way to eliminate SALT — which is not a revenue raiser, as you know; it would cost more money — and they want to propose a way to pay for it, and they want to put that forward, we’re happy to hear their ideas.
Q Thank you, Jen. I know this is a follow-up to the last question, but just specifically: Are there red lines in the first phase of the infrastructure bill on things like the — on the money that’s earmarked for racial inequality — excuse me, racial equity — the pot of money for the $400 billion for seniors? You know, are those “musts” when it comes to the first phase of the bill?
MS. PSAKI: The President’s focus is on the objectives he’s trying to achieve, which is rebuilding our infrastructure so we can compete around the world; putting millions of Americans back to work; easing the burden, as you’ve noted, on — of caregiving, which is impacting millions of Americans who are not in the workforce in the way they would like.
So I’m not going to give you red lines from here; only to convey that he designed this bill — the administration designed this bill with an effort to meet the moment and to do it in a way that ensures we are looking at addressing challenges in our country through a lens of equity; that we’re doing in a way that helps cities and rural America; that we’re doing it in a way that meets the moment and meets the moment of the needs for a once-in-a-century investment.
But we certainly understand that there will be a difference of views. There will be a discussion about how to achieve these objectives. So he looks forward to members making their own proposals.
Q Is he willing to narrow the first phase of the bill at all for, you know, things that the Republicans deem to be truly critical infrastructure?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen a proposal from them for specific areas to narrow and what the impact would be. And if they want to propose that, I’m sure he’s happy to have a discussion, but we’re not going to negotiate from here.
Q I want to pivot to another topic. Earlier this month, the administration delivered an intelligence report to Congress.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q It warned out of the rising dangers by militia groups, extremists, white supremacists. Is — does the President feel that it’s time for the U.S. to adopt a domestic terrorism statute?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Zolan, he talked about that a bit on the campaign trail. What he has asked his administration to do is do a 100-day review on domestic violent extremism because there is such an expansive impact and threat around the country of domestic violent extremism.
We have a couple more weeks of that review that are underway — the policymaking component of that — and I expect once it’s concluded, there’ll be some recommendations on how to best address this threat.
Q I have a quick immigration question, just —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q You know, the administration has often cited that, you know, they continue to expel single adults, families — or intend to expel families back south across the border. I mean, those migrants are going to some of the same areas that they were returned to under MPP as well. The administration unwound MPP and criticized it pretty sharply.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q And CDC officials have also reportedly opposed Title 42 when it was implemented by the Trump administration. So, how does the continued use of that rule square with President Biden’s campaign pledge to resor- — to restore asylum at the border? And secondly, what is the CDC assessing when it comes to deciding when to lift that order?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, we’re still in the middle of a public health crisis. There’s 1,000 people a day, approximately, dying of COVID-19 still. And, of course, the CDC and others — and I would defer to them on what their criteria are and their timeline — but they look at that and, of course, the impact. So I don’t anticipate any near-term change, but I would defer to them on their timeline.
Q On the list of the most urgent infrastructure projects that you have identified as an administration, when will the White House put out a list of those projects, as outlined in the plan? And which agency is in charge of this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’ll be — there’s a Jobs Cabinet and Council — or “Jobs Cabinet,” I should call them — that will be playing a variety of roles, including in the internal policy development process; you know, engagement with Capitol Hill; engagement with governors; engagement with the American public.
Once the bill passes, there’ll be a competitive bidding process.
Q So the five — to clarify, the five individuals that the President named today as being in charge of the —
MS. PSAKI: In terms of the —
MS. PSAKI: They will be in charge of — sorry to combine the things. They will be in charge of communicating with the public, communicating with Congress, communicating with mayors and governors, having discussions about different components of the bill — whether it’s broadband or different infrastructure components — the impact on businesses.
These are the Cabinet members who will all play a role in this engagement. But the — the competitive bidding process obviously wouldn’t start until the bill is passed.
Q Okay. On the President’s budget, or the discretionary guide — can you give us an update on why it’s delayed? I think we expected it to be out today.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on the timeline. I know it will be out soon. But I don’t have any more specifics for you.
Q And then one, lastly, on the President’s interview with ESPN last night. He was obviously very critical of the Texas Rangers reopening their stadium at full capacity in the middle of a pandemic. Apart from urging people to wear masks, wash their hands, socially distance, is the President planning to take any other measures to try to slow the pace of the reopening and engaging with governors, especially as we see a rise of cases in a number of states?
MS. PSAKI: Well, his focus is on action. And so, you’ve noted some of them, but it is — when he saw an urgency in the rising cases, we took some urgent action, including doubling — more than doubling the number of pharmacies that will have the vaccine, increasing our commitment and our investment in mass vaccination sites and community health centers. His view is: The more people we can get vaccinated more quickly, the better positioned we will be. So that’s where his focus is.
Q Are you worried that reopening and rising cases will out, sort of, pace the vaccination pace?
MS. PSAKI: I would leave it to our health experts to make predictions of that kind. I would say that what we have control over here is how rapidly we can get the vaccine out, how many locations we can ensure the vaccine is available to the public in. We can continue to do more to meet people where they are. That’s where our focus is.
I’d also note that, though some governors have rolled back public health guidelines — something obviously we wouldn’t support given the public health guidelines are in place — a number of mayors, local elected officials, businesses have kept them in place even in a number of those states, because it’s not a political issue, and they are — have taken those steps in order to keep the people in their jurisdictions safe.
Q Thanks, Jen. So during the campaign, the President signaled his support for expanding Paid Family and Medical Leave. I know the provision that was enacted during the camp- — or during the pandemic expired and paid leave wasn’t in the stimulus package. Is paid leave something that the President will commit to including in the second part of his infrastructure proposal?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s naturally still ongoing discussions about the final pieces of the package. You know, he does believe that — that it is — he did include, actually, emergency paid leave in his Rescue Plan, so that component was included.
And it was President Biden who signed into law, this month on — this month an extension of a paid leave credit that more families, right now, have access to paid leave. So those are all steps he’s taken immediately, given his view that this is important to families across the country, especially as they’re trying to make ends meet. And he’s been clear about his support for permanent paid leave and medical leave — paid and medical leave. But I don’t have anything to predict for you in terms of the next package.
Q And then, on a different topic. The shooting in California is the latest in a series of several high-profile gun tragedies over the past few weeks. Is the President ready to start issuing executive orders?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first let me say that the disturbing news of gun violence in Orange, California, that resulted in the tragic loss of lives — innocent lives — last night is yet another example of senseless gun violence that occurs all too frequently, and underscores the need for legislation to expand background checks — something that’s worked its way through the House, that the President certainly supports — to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and remove liability protections for gun manufacturers.
The President — there is an ongoing review of executive actions, and something that he is certainly personally committed to, and hopefully we’ll have more to say on that soon.
Q And a quick follow on that. It’s my understanding that a number of gun violence prevention advocacy groups have requested a meeting with the President. Is that something that he is willing to do? Is he going to meet with them? And if so, do you have an idea of when that meeting might happen?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any predictions for you in terms of a meeting. I will say that the President has worked hand in hand with a number of these groups for decades.
As somebody who fought to get the Brady Bill passed; who fought for an assault weapons ban and getting that into law in the ‘90s; who led the effort to put in place 20 — nearly two dozen executive actions while he was Vice President, he’s certainly been a partner and will continue to be an advocate as President for additional commonsense gun safety measures.
I will say that there is, in the American Jobs Plan — and there is a lot in there, so this was a piece that didn’t receive as much focus — a proposal of 5 million — a $5 billion investment over eight years to support evidence-based community violence intervention. And, you know, this is a step that, of course, would be — would help on gun violence and community violence.
We also know that violence is a public health crisis disproportionately impacting Black and brown communities and Americans. And a key part of community violence intervention strategies is to help connect individuals to job training and job opportunities. So it’s part of his job effort, but certainly another effort that many of these gun safety organizations feel is important, addressing community violence in order to reduce that across the country.
Q Just one follow-up on SALT. You’re saying that if Democrats are able to negotiate something, they have to find the revenue somewhere else? Is that — because as you say, it’s a “revenue reducer.” That they need to find — they need to balance the books some other way?
MS. PSAKI: Unless they think that a package doesn’t need to be paid for — or that doesn’t need to be paid for. So we’re open to hearing ideas and proposals. I just think for clarity purposes with — you know and a lot of people know — but eliminating SALT obviously is a revenue — not a revenue raiser. And it is something that either would have to be paid for or not.
But, you know, our focus right now is on ensuring that we are getting relief to the broad swath of the American people who are most impacted by the downturn: the 10 million Americans out of work, people who are looking to be a part of growing industries of the future. But we understand that many Democrats — or some Democrats, I should say, are focused on that and interested in discussing it. We’re happy to discuss it with them.
Q So my colleagues at the Miami Herald have been talking with undocumented immigrants who’ve struggled in South Florida to get vaccinated because they don’t have a driver’s license or other federally issued ID. I know that the federal government doesn’t want to set those standards. But what can you do to — is there anything the administration can do to set guidelines or to advocate on their behalf? And are you concerned about undocumented immigrants not receiving the vaccine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly the more people who are vaccinated, whether they’re undocumented or not, the safer we are as a country. And that’s certainly the President’s point of view. And as you noted, that is not our federal guidelines. I will have to check if there’s anything we can specifically do in South Florida or parts of Florida where this is having an impact. And happy to follow up with you on it.
Q President Biden earlier today just spoke to faith leaders and talked about how concerned he was that Americans are becoming too cavalier about safeguarding against COVID, and on top of that, issues around skepticism with the vaccine. And, you know, and then we also have these variants. Is there some way that you can characterize how worried Americans should be right now about the severity of another COVID wave?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not here to scare people. I think, though, we have been saying from the beginning that we need to be vigilant and that we are still at war with the pandemic. And that has been our consistent message from the federal government.
One of the reasons why the President did the meeting with faith leaders today is that we’ve also seen that it is — the most powerful voices, the most impactful voices in communities are those who are leaders in their communities; sometimes those are faith leaders, civic leaders, local doctors.
And that’s why a big part of our investment is — as we look to the next stage of this, which is a focus on vaccination — is in those communities. So I think that was the purpose of the meeting today.
But I think, to be clear from here, we’ve seen progress around the country. We’ve seen, of course, the data of the number of people who are vaccinated, but we also need to remain vigilant. And that’s why the President repeats that message at every opportunity.
Q You said you’re not there to — you’re not here to scare people. It’s been Biden’s message, you know, “I will always be frank with people.” And do you think that the administration is doing that?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. We are conveying and we’ve conveyed consistently, nearly at every opportunity, that we need to remain vigilant. People need to still wear masks. They need to social distance. They need to hand wash. That even as more people get vaccinated — you know, even as people are vaccinated — you know, if you’re — if you get vaccinated with Pfizer, you get your one — first dose; three weeks later, you get your second dose; and it’s not until two weeks after that that you — it has the full impact. That’s five weeks after the first dose. So even as more people are vaccinated, we need to remain vigilant.
That’s been our crystal-clear message from the beginning from this — and consistently, even as people have felt that we did not need to abide by the guidelines in some parts of the country.
Q Thank you. The administration is praising its results in terms of the vaccination campaign, but when it comes to the vaccine diplomacy, it remains clearly behind China or Russia. Is the White House considering any measure, apart from the (inaudible) COVAX, to catch up with those countries before the entire American population is vaccinated?
MS. PSAKI: Our focus remains on ensuring the American people are vaccinated. And we, of course, remain open to a range of options of helping and being a part of the global community moving forward. But that remains our first focus.
Q So there will be no export before the end of (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: We exported some doses of AstraZeneca to Canada and Mexico, so not — no export. We obviously will consider a range of options, but our focus remains on vaccinating the adult — American adul- — adult Americans in this country.
Q Thank you, Jen. We reported earlier today that Senator Joe Manchin has privately expressed to some co-sponsors for the Equality Act that he is not yet on board with voting for that legislation, which obviously makes this path to breaking the filibuster even more difficult.
If that ends up happening, if it ends up being thwarted by the filibuster, has President Biden given any thought to considering support for the Fairness For All Act, which is being floated as sort of a compromise measure by moderate Republicans?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our legislative team on that. It’s a great question. I can follow up with you after the briefing.
Q I do have, like, sort of, a follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q If — because some community leaders that I’ve spoken with about the Fairness For All Act have pointed to specific carve-outs — like allowing some businesses with fewer than 15 employees to deny service to someone for being LGBT — as being really tough pills to swallow. Would he commit, or could this administration commit, at this point, to not signing legislation that would create carve-outs like that?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think the President supports the Equality Act. He’s been clear about that. I don’t think I’m going to get too far ahead down the rabbit hole of this while it’s still being negotiated through Congress.
Go ahead, in the back.
Q Oh, yes. So, thank you, Jen, by the way. The fourth key element in the American Jobs Plan is invest in R&D, and one of that in there is bringing critical supply chains back to the United States. What specific incentives is the administration going to give companies? Are we talking about tax breaks, direct payments?
And then there would be — would there be disincentives, meaning tariffs, put on items that are not brought back or critical supply chains that are not brought back?
MS. PSAKI: It’s a really great question. I know there’s a supply chain, kind of, meeting coming up that is being hosted by our NEC Director and our National — our — Jake Sullivan, who’s our National Security Advisor, where I’m sure they’ll discuss a range of issues. And I’m sure this will be a discussion with members of Congress, as they’re engaging with our jobs cabinet. So it sounds like there’s more to discuss on this topic.
Q So you can’t tell — you don’t know if it’s tax incentives at this point (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: I can — I’m sure I can get you more specific on it after the briefing.
Q On — on one other subject. In Georgia — talking about the voting bill that was just signed from the governor — community organizers have threatened boycotts on big companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, in part from some of the information that’s come from the President.
In his last news conference, he said that the bill requires voting to end early, at 5:00 p.m. And you’ve said, and some others have said, that words matter. The bill actually standardizes voting hours by counties and adds Saturdays and Sundays voting, and it also allows the extended hours from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. So is there going to be a correction issued for —
MS. PSAKI: It standardizes the ending of voting every day at five, right? It just gives options?
Q Seven — seven to seven is what it —
MS. PSAKI: It gives options to expand it — right? — but it standardized it at five. It also makes it so that outside groups can’t provide water or food to people in line. Right?
Q Yeah, but the —
MS. PSAKI: It makes it more difficult to absentee vote. Are those things all correct?
Q The voting on the day of is seven to seven, and early voting — it can standardize adding Saturday and Sunday. So my question is: Is the tone going to change out of the White House? Or —
MS. PSAKI: The tone for a bill that limits voting access and makes it more difficult for people to engage in voting in Georgia?
Q No, that’s actually not what the governor of Georgia has said.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that is not based in fact what the governor of Georgia has said.
So, no, our tone is not changing. We have concerns about the specific components of the package, including the fact that it makes it harder and more difficult for people to vote by limiting absentee options; by making it not viable, not possible for people to provide water to people who are in line; by not standardizing longer hours.
So, if you’re making it harder to vote, no, we don’t support that.
Q A quick one. Is the President considering giving an address to a joint session of Congress near the 100-day mark?
MS. PSAKI: He is definitely considering giving a joint session address. I can’t wait until we finally announce this because I know all — you all really want a date. We’re working with leaders in Congress to finalize that. I just don’t have a date quite yet for you.
Q Gotcha. And then, a quick follow-up. Why haven’t refugee flights continued at this point? Last month, the President did announce that he intended to raise the refugee cap before the typical, you know, end of the fiscal year —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — where it traditionally happens. That hasn’t seemed to happen yet. Why haven’t those flights continued?
MS. PSAKI: He remains committed, but I don’t have an update on the timing of the flights.
Q Does it have anything to do with the fact that resources are going towards the border at this time? Or —
MS. PSAKI: No, no, it’s not related to that. No.
Q Thank you, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.
2:27 P.M. EDT